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  • History Friday: A Man of Elastic and Convenient Virtue

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 23rd, 2018 (All posts by )

    (From my own website archives, a post from March, 2011, explaining a little of the background to the fight for Texian independence, and a bit of the shifty character of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, whom I think of as Mexico’s bad boyfriend. He brought only grief to poor Mexico, over and over again … and over and over again, Mexico forgave him and took him back.)

    For the writing of Daughter of Texas – which followed the life of an Anglo-German settler’s family in Texas, beginning in the mid 1820’s – I needed to delve into the deep and murky political waters of early 19th century Mexico, as they touched on the matter of Texas. In doing this, I made the not-entirely-unexpected-discovery that  . . .  well, it was an extremely complicated situation. Byzantine, even.  A horrific situation like – say, the siege of the Alamo – did just not appear out of the clear blue, just because Davy Crockett and a couple of hundred Texians and a Mexican strong-man general and his thousands decided one spring day in 1836 to start bashing away at each other. There was about twenty years of back-story there, some of it terribly convoluted, but no less interesting for all of that, and simply crammed with dramatic potential. Curious characters, dramatic incidents, marvelous coincidences, and accounts of political dirty-dealing and quietly heroic sacrifice abound, most of which is barely hinted at, in books and movies about the Texas War for Independence.  Becoming familiar with the circumstances was absolutely necessary: in order to fill out the background, and to explain in a natural fashion how it all came to pass, through the lives and words and experiences of my characters – some of whom were historical characters.
    Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Diversions, History | No Comments »

    Call us when the sequel, Dog Training the American Female, is being promoted.

    Posted by Jonathan on March 22nd, 2018 (All posts by )

    From a publicist’s email:

    Men Behaving Badly? New Book Says Use A Shock Collar!
    New York, NY, March 20, 2018 – New York Times bestselling author Steve Alten’s side-splitting, chick-lit romp is a world away from the riveting thrillers that made him an internationally-recognized author (such as MEG; now a Warner Brothers movie being released in August with a great line-up of stars). Inspired by his experiences working with both male and female dog trainers, followed by a fight with his wife, Dog Training the American Male tells the uproarious story of a female relationship counselor who can’t seem to make her own relationships work until she discovers that the techniques used to train her boyfriend’s dog can also be used on him!
    Dog Training the American Male is a laugh-out-loud rom-com, written by Alten several years ago under the pen name L.A. Knight. The story centers on Nancy Beach, a relationship guru and radio talk show host whose relationships and ratings are in the toilet – until she discovers the dog training lessons used on her live-in boyfriend’s German shepherd actually work just as well on men.
    Alten says the concept for the story came to him during a heated discussion with his wife, who accused him of never listening. When his German shepherd wandered across the battlefront with her shoe in its mouth, Alten’s spouse yelled several commands at the dog who immediately dropped the shoe and went into its crate. How had the dog understood his wife’s commands while Alten always seemed to misinterpret everything his spouse said? The author realized the dog understood because it had been trained.
    [. . .]

    Ha ha ha.


    Posted in Book Notes, Culture | 13 Comments »

    Catalist, “The 480,” and The Real 480

    Posted by David Foster on March 19th, 2018 (All posts by )

    (In the light of the Cambridge Analytica revelations and controversy. I thought this 2014 post might be due for a rerun)

    There has been much discussion recently of Catalist, a database system being used by the Democratic Party to optimally target their electioneering efforts…see Jonathan’s post here.  I’m reminded of Eugene Burdick’s 1964 novel, The 480.  The book’s premise is that a group within the Republican party acquires the services of a computing company called  Simulation Enterprises, intending to apply the latest technology and social sciences research in order to get their candidate elected.  These party insiders have been inspired by the earlier work of the 1960 Kennedy campaign with a company called Simulmatics.

    Simulmatics was a real company.  It was founded by MIT professor Ithiel de Sola Pool, a pioneer in the application of computer technology to social science research. Data from 130,000 interviews was categorized into 480 demographic groups, and an IBM 704 computer was used to process this data and predict the likely effects of various alternative political tactics.  One question the company was asked to address by the 1960 Democratic campaign, in the person of Robert F Kennedy, was:  How best to deal with religion?  There was considerable concern among some parts of the electorate about the prospect of choosing a Catholic as President.  Would the JFK campaign do better by minimizing attention to this issue, or would they do better by addressing it directly and condemning as bigots those who would let Kennedy’s faith affect their vote?

    Simulmatics concluded that “Kennedy today has lost the bulk of the votes he would lose if the election campaign were to be embittered by the issue of anti-Catholicism.  The simulation shows that there has already been a serious defection from Kennedy by Protestant voters. Under these circumstances, it makes no sense to brush the religious issue under the rug.  Kennedy has already suffered the disadvantages of the issue even though it is not embittered now–and without receiving compensating advantages inherent in it.”  Quantitatively, the study predicted that Kennedy’s direct addressing of the religion issue would move eleven states, totaling 122 electoral votes, away from the Kennedy camp–but would pull six states, worth 132 electoral votes, into the Democratic column.

    It is not clear how much this study influenced actual campaign decision-making…but less than three weeks after RFK received the Simulmatics report, JFK talked about faith before a gathering of ministers in Houston.  “I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end,”  Kennedy said,  “where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind.” (Burdick’s novel also suggests that the Kennedy campaign used Simulmatics to assess the effects of a more-forthright posture on civil rights by the campaign, and furthermore to analyze Kennedy’s optimal personality projection during the debates–I don’t know if these assertions are historically correct, but the religion analysis clearly was indeed performed.)

    Considerable excitement was generated when, after the election, the Simulmatics project became publicly known.  A Harper’s Magazine article referred to to the Simulmatics computer as “the people machine,” and quoted Dr Harold Lasswell of Yale as saying, “This is the A-bomb of the social sciences.  The breakthrough here is comparable to what happened at Stagg Field.”  But Pierre Salinger, speaking for the Kennedy campaign, asserted that “We did not use the machine.”  (Salinger’s statement is called out as a lie in the recent book, The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns.)

    In Burdick’s novel, the prospective Republican candidate is John Thatch, head of an international engineering and construction company.  Thatch has achieved popular renown after courageously defusing a confrontation between Indians and Pakistanis over a bridge his company was building, thereby averting a probable war.  Something about Thatch’s personality has struck the public imagination, and–despite his lack of political experience–he looks to be an attractive candidate.  But initially, the Republicans see little hope of defeating the incumbent Kennedy–“the incumbent is surrounded by over four years of honorific words and rituals,” a psychologist explains.  “He seems as though he ought to be President.  He assumes the mantle.”  This outlook is deeply disturbing to a Republican senior statesman named Bookbinder, who strongly believes that defacto 8-year terms are bad for the country…but if it is true that Kennedy is unbeatable, then the best the Republicans can hope to do is lose as well as possible.  Things change when Kennedy is assassinated and the election becomes a real contest.

    Bookbinder and Levi, another Republican senior statesman, are introduced to Simulation Enterprises by a young lawyer named Madison (Mad) Curver and his psychologist associate (quoted above), a woman named Dr Devlin.  Mad and Dr Devlin explain that what Sim Enterprises does is different from the work done by garden-variety pollsters like the one they have just met, Dr Cotter:

    “The pollster taps only a small fragment of the subject’s mind, attention, background, family influence, and habits.  The Simulations thing, just because it can consider thousands of elements influencing the subject, even things he may not know himself, gets much better results.”

    “And one further thing, Book,” Mad said.  “Simulations Enterprises can predict what people will do in a situation which they have never heard of before.  That was the whole point of the UN in the Midwest example.  No one has gone out there and asked them to vote on whether we should get out of the UN, but Dev outlined a procedure by which you can predict how they will react…if they ever do have to vote on it.

    Again Bookbinder had the sharp sense of unreality.  Unreal people were being asked invented questions and a result came out on green, white-lined paper…and when you got around to the real people six months later with the real question they would act the way the computer had said they would.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Elections, History, Human Behavior, Marketing, Obama, Politics, Polls, Predictions, Trump, USA | 11 Comments »

    Book Review: The Year of the French (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on March 17th, 2018 (All posts by )

    The Year of the French, by Thomas Flanagan

    (This being St Patrick’s day, I’m again taking advantage of the hook to re-post this review, in the hope of inspiring a few more people to read this incredibly fine historical novel)

    Ralph Peters calls this book “the finest historical novel written in English, at least in the twentieth century,” going on to say “except for ‘The Leopard,’ I know of no historical novel that so richly and convincingly captures the ambience of a bygone world.”

    In August of 1798, the French revolutionary government landed 1000 troops in County Mayo to support indigenous Irish rebels, with the objective of overthrowing British rule in Ireland.  The Year of the French tells the (fictionalized but fact-based) story of these events from the viewpoint of several characters, representing different groups in the complex and strife-ridden Irish social structure of the time.

    Owen MacCarthy is a schoolmaster and poet who writes in the Gaelic tradition.  He is pressed by illiterate locals to write a threatening letter to a landlord who has evicted tenants while switching land from farming to cattle-raising.  With his dark vision of how an attempt at rebellion must end–“In Caslebar.  They will load you in carts with your wrists tied behind you and take you down to Castlebar and try you there and hang you there”–MacCarthy is reluctant to get involved, but he writes the letter.

    Sam Cooper, the recipient of the letter, is a small-scale landlord, and captain of the local militia.  Indigenously Irish, his family converted to Protestantism several generations ago to avoid the crippling social and economic disabilities imposed on Catholics. Cooper’s wife, Kate, herself still Catholic, is a beautiful and utterly ruthless woman…she advises Cooper to respond to the letter by rounding up “a few of the likeliest rogues,”  jailing and flogging them, without any concern for actual guilt or innocence. “My God, what a creature you are for a woman,”  Cooper responds. “It is a man you should have been born.”  “A strange creature that would make me in your bed,” Kate fires back, “It is a woman I am, and fine cause you have to know it…What matters now is who has the land and who will keep it.”

    Ferdy O’Donnell  is a young hillside farmer on Cooper’s land.  Far back in the past, the land was owned by the O’Donnell family…Ferdy had once shown Cooper  “a valueless curiosity, a parchment that recorded the fact in faded ink the colour of old, dried blood.”

    Arthur Vincent Broome is a Protestant clergyman who is not thrilled by the “wild and dismal region” to which he has been assigned, but who performs his duties as best he can. Broome is resolved to eschew religious bigotry, but…”I affirm most sincerely that distinctions which rest upon creed mean little to me, and yet I confess that my compassion for their misery is mingled with an abhorrence of their alien ways…they live and thrive in mud and squalour…their music, for all that antiquarians and fanatics can find to say in its flavor, is wild and savage…they combine a grave and gentle courtesy with a murderous violence that erupts without warning…”‘

    Malcolm Elliott is a Protestant landlord and solicitor, and a member of the Society of United Irishmen.  This was a revolutionary group with Enlightenment ideals, dedicated to bringing Catholics and Protestants together in the cause of overthrowing British rule and establishing an Irish Republic.  His wife, Judith, is an Englishwoman with romantic ideas about Ireland.

    John Moore, also a United Irishman, is a member of one of the few Catholic families that have managed to hold on to their land.  He is in love with Ellen Treacy, daughter of another prominent Catholic family: she returns his love, but believes that he is caught in a web of words that can only lead to disaster.  “One of these days you will say a loose word to some fellow and he will get on his horse and ride off to Westport to lay an information with Dennis Browne, and that will be the last seen of you”

    Dennis Browne is High Sheriff of Mayo…smooth, manipulative, and devoted to the interests of the very largest landowners in the county, such as his brother Lord Altamont and the mysterious Lord Glenthorne, the “Big Lord” who owns vast landholdings and an immense house which he has never visited.

    Randall MacDonnell is a Catholic landowner with a decrepit farm and house, devoted primarily to his horses.  His motivations for joining the rebellion are quite different from those of the idealistic United Irishman…”For a hundred years of more, those Protestant bastards have been the cocks of the walk, strutting around on acres that belong by rights to the Irish…there are men still living who remember when a son could grab his father’s land by turning Protestant.”

    Jean Joseph Humbert is the commander of the French forces.  A former dealer in animal skins, he owes his position in life to the revolution.  He is a talented commander, but  the battle he is most concerned about is the battle for status and supremacy between himself and  Napoleon Bonaparte.

    Charles Cornwallis, the general who surrendered to the Americans at Yorktown, is now in charge of defeating the French and the rebels and pacifying the rebellious areas of Ireland.   Seen through the eyes of  a young aide who admires him greatly, Cornwallis is portrayed as a basically kindly man who can be hard when he thinks it necessary, but takes no pleasure in it.  “The color of war had long since bleached from his thoughts, and it remained for him only a duty to be scrupulously performed.”

    This book is largely about the way in which the past lives on in the present, both in the world of physical objects and the world of social relationships.  Two characters who make a brief appearance are Richard Manning, proprietor of a decrepit and debt-laden castle, and his companion Ellen Kirwan:  Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Book Notes, Britain, France, History, Ireland | 1 Comment »

    Po nan Jwèt la: Asymétri Kache nan Lavi Chak Jou

    Posted by Jay Manifold on March 16th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Taleb, Nassim N., Skin in the Game: Hidden Asymmetries in Daily Life. New York City: Random House, 2018.

    NB: precisely because I regard Taleb as a national treasure and have considerable respect for his work, I am not going to pull punches here. I get to do this because I have … skin in the game, and not only in Haiti[1] (where I wrote this post over the past ten days, thus the Kreyòl Ayisyen title), but in a couple-three moderately hair-raising situations back in KC, which I will relate when appropriate. Which might be never; see Matthew 6:1-4 (cited by Taleb on page 186).

    Getting this out of the way—buy this book, read it, and recommend it to others. I say this very much irrespective of what might be called the Manifold-Taleb delta, which is not altogether trivial, as I will explain in some detail—again, as a sign of respect—below. Immediately below, in fact.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Bioethics, Book Notes, Capitalism, Ebola, Education, Entrepreneurship, Environment, History, Human Behavior, Islam, Japan, Libertarianism, Miscellaneous, National Security, Political Philosophy, Russia, Space, Systems Analysis, Terrorism | 11 Comments »

    Media and Politics

    Posted by David Foster on March 14th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Bookworm writes about an ‘art installation’ at the (taxpayer-funded) Los Angeles County Museum of Art.  Here’s how the museum describes the exhibition:

    Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s conceptual virtual reality installation CARNE y ARENA (Virtually present, Physically invisible) explores the human condition of immigrants and refugees. Based on true accounts, the superficial lines between subject and bystander are blurred and bound together, allowing individuals to walk in a vast space and thoroughly live a fragment of the refugees’ personal journeys. An immersive installation that reunites frequent collaborators Iñárritu and Emmanuel Lubezki alongside producer Mary Parent and ILMxLAB, CARNE y ARENA is centered around a 6 ½-minute virtual reality sequence for one person that employs state-of-the-art immersive technology to create a multi-narrative light space with human characters.

    Here’s Bookworm:

    That’s a pretty bland, abstract description. A pro-illegal immigration Proggie friend of mine, though, went and was blown away by the wonder of it all. I’ve restated his glowing description in my own less glowing words, but the substance of what he said is still there.

    The exhibition is meant to have you experience through virtual reality (it’s hot and sandy in the exhibition) what a Honduran, El Salvadoran, Merxican or Guatemalan experiences as he or she journeys north through the Sonoran desert to enter America illegally through Arizona. After you’ve signed a waiver, lest the good folks at LACMA make you uncomfortable, and taken off your shoes, your adventure begins.

    Thrill to the experience of having border guards surround you with helicopters and vans to arrest you. Then, having gotten yourself (as promised) hot and covered with sand, you get to see videos of real illegal aliens reenacting their experiences for the camera. (I assume it’s some form of PTSD psychotherapy for illegal aliens.)

    (Much more at the Bookworm link.)  This exhibit is very much in the style of the ‘tunnels of oppression’ which have become popular at America’s colleges and universities.

    I recently ran across a passage from a pioneering media expert, writing in the 1920s, who remarked that social change could never be achieved merely via the written word; most people were inherently lazy (he argued) and were unlikely to pick up a book if it went against their existing views, or even pay enough attention to a leaflet for it have have real impact. So, oratory–the spoken word–was much more effective. BUT, there was a new technology which had still greater advantages:

    The picture in all its forms up to the film has greater possibilities. Here a man needs to use his brains even less; it suffices to look, or at most to read extremely brief texts, and thus many will more readily accept a pictorial presentation than read an article of any length. The picture brings them in a much briefer time, I might almost say at one stroke, the enlightenment which they obtain from written matter only after arduous reading.

    If movies have great potential in forming/changing opinions…and they do…then most likely an immersive experience such as the one at LACMA will be even more powerful.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in Human Behavior, Immigration, Media | 4 Comments »

    The Sec of State Tillerson Firing

    Posted by Trent Telenko on March 13th, 2018 (All posts by )

    There was no single reason for the Sec of State Tillerson Firing…there was a laundry list.

    According to various sources, Tillerson was pretty much against implementing President Trump’s foreign policy, trade and immigration agenda for Trump’s 2nd year as President and chaffed Pres. Trump over Russia besides:

    1. Tillerson was working with the EU to stop the President from tearing up the Iran deal.
    2. Tillerson wanted to remain in the TPP, TAP, & NAFTA.
    3. Tillerson was against NK talks.
    4. Tillerson was against China Tariffs.
    5. Tillerson wanted to remain in the Paris Climate accord.
    6. Tillerson did not support making Jerusalem the home of our embassy.
    7. Tillerson wanted to keep open borders/high refugee resettlement.
    8. Tillerson was talking that Russia affected our election results just before the Nunes Committee put a bullet in the head of the “Muh-Russia Collusion Delusion.”

    Working behind Pres. Trump’s back with the EU over maintaining Pres Obama’s Iran nuclear deal — which Pres. Trump wants eliminated and the abandoned sanctions reinstated — was the last straw for Tillerson.


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    Posted in Big Government, Current Events, International Affairs, Iran, Middle East, Military Affairs, National Security, Politics | 34 Comments »

    Maybe I’m Whistling Past the Graveyard but I don’t think so

    Posted by Ginny on March 13th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Instapundit links to an article about Kasich’s education plan. The Never Trumpers keep arguing in The Weekly Standard that Trump has all the traits of an authoritarian. Well, perhaps. Sure he says he’d like the power of a Chinese leader – so did Obama as I remember. And he can bully a bit. But these warnings are amidst articles on de Vos’s devolution of power in the Education Department or Pruitt’s in the environmental area or . . . throwing DACA back to Congress, for God’s sake. Well it never hurts to be wary but we could stay in touch with reality. This is like the Russian collusion – if he were colluding why in the hell would he open Alaskan oil drilling? I still can’t take all of his speeches & wince at his twitters, but at least he understands that nationalism is something that should be drawing us together – not pulling us apart (at least historic nationalism). And he’s funny.


    Posted in Big Government, Trump | 13 Comments »

    Racial Meditation

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on March 11th, 2018 (All posts by )

    For me, the very first – although not the most momentous disappointment in the accumulated collection racked up throughout the Obama administration – was the realization that there would be no line drawn under the old bug-bear of racism with regard to those of us – as a friend of mine during my assignment to Greenland in the early 1980s put it – with the year-round dark tan. Yes, said friend was black, Afro-American, a person of color, or whatever the approved term is these days. (You kids, get off my lawn! Oh … I don’t have a lawn.) My friend was a totally middle-class young woman, the daughter of professionals, who like me, had grown up without ever personally observing much in-your-face unmistakable racial antagonism or prejudice. It was merely something that had happened to other people, a fair number of decades ago; at worst howlingly illegal, at best, rude. We were in the habit of walking together every Saturday, around the end of the Sondrestrom AB runway to the Danish side of the base, there to enjoy a cup of tea and a pastry in the SAS air terminal cafeteria. Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Obama, Personal Narrative | 24 Comments »

    Well, This is Interesting

    Posted by David Foster on March 11th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Back in 1975, California Governor Jerry Brown was opposed to allowing Vietnamese refugees into California.


    Posted in Immigration | 13 Comments »

    The Russia Collusion story is becoming more clear.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on March 8th, 2018 (All posts by )

    I was a little late coming to the Trump supporters, but it was interesting almost back to the beginning.

    Then it began to form a preference cascade.

    Can the GOP really be so out of touch with the legions of out-of-work Americans — many of whom don’t show up in the “official” unemployment rate because they’ve given up looking for work in the Obama economy? With the returning military vets frustrated with lawyer-driven, politically correct rules of engagement that have tied their hands in a fight against a mortal enemy? With those who, in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino massacres by Muslims, reasonably fear an influx of culturally alien “refugees” and “migrants” from the Middle East?

    April 2016:
    Trump is a coward, four time bankrupt loser, con artist, bully, 12 time business failure, WWE character, hypocrite, liar, dullard, loose cannon and has very poor character. He will lose in November and people need to wake up to that fact. Otherwise, hello President Hillary.

    A year later, that commenter is a supporter.

    Trump was in touch with them.

    The result was “Deep Confusion.”

    I left Queens for Brooklyn to meet Dany L. Esquilin, a Republican I met in the first week of this assignment, aboard a train to the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

    Mr. Esquilin was not a stereotypical Trump supporter. His parents were born in Puerto Rico, he is black and he had once been a Democrat. (Then again, so had Mr. Trump.) A retired private investigator, Mr. Esquilin worked to marshal Republican votes from Jews, Russians and Chinese-Americans.

    Oh Oh.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Politics, Trump | 32 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on March 4th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Bioluminescence at American Digest

    Some thoughts on storytelling

    Peer influence among adolescents as a driver of transgenderism

    Sarah Hoyt: “Have most institutions, stores and corporations, most large human organizations, gone stone stupid?”

    3-D printing in the manufacture of GE’s new turboprop engine

    Jim Grant, the well-known observer and analyst of interest rates, asks “what will futurity make of the (so-called) PhD standard that runs our world?” and suggests that, after a major market crash, explanations will include “My generation gave former tenured economics professors discretionary authority to fabricate money and fix interest rates.”

    Reminds me:  Danielle DiMartino Booth, who took a job at the Fed following a successful career on Wall Street, remarked that she did not experience discrimination on account of her sex…but she did face serious prejudice against her on account of not having a PhD.


    Posted in Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Management, Organizational Analysis, Science, USA | 22 Comments »

    “Why Did It Take Two Weeks To Discover Parkland Students’ Astroturfing?”

    Posted by Jonathan on March 2nd, 2018 (All posts by )

    This Federalist post by David Hines is well worth reading and full of points about political organizing that need to be made over and over to conservatives and libertarians.

    However, Hines’s post is annoying because he confounds conservative voters with the Republican political establishment. It was probably obvious to most politically alert conservatives within hours of the Parkland murders that the media and Democratic Party response was scripted and agenda-driven. Most of us probably expected this if not that it would come so soon. Similarly, the seemingly spontaneous overnight emergence of attractive, articulate Parkland students with anti-gun views, and the sophisticated promotion of anti-RKBA demonstrations and similar political events, was no surprise. We didn’t know the details but the outlines of a coordinated media-activist campaign were clear.

    So, no, it didn’t take two weeks to discover the Parkland students’ astroturfing. The only people who seemed to believe the spin about a supposedly spontaneous anti-RKBA youth movement were naive liberals and establishment Republicans. (From a John Kasich press release from 21 February: “Friend, in case you missed my interview on CNN this morning, I called on the President and Congress to end the politics and produce common sense gun laws that make sense.” Clueless and a sell-out.) The rest of us knew what was going on and knew that the Republican establishment would be weak, inept and slow in response. We agree with Hines about the importance of political organizing. That is one of the reasons why we voted against the effete Republican establishment in 2016 and will continue to do so. Perhaps one day conservatives and Republicans will become as good at politics as the Left and Democrats are. Until then we will vote for Trump because unlike many establishment Republicans he appears to mean what he says, and has real skill at promoting and defending his agenda even if he does so mostly rhetorically and without outside help.

    UPDATE: Perhaps I was too negative on Hines based on a quibble. Ace’s post summarizing some of Hines’s tweets is worth reading, and Ace’s conclusion is particularly good:

    I would further say the biggest division on what used to be called “The Right” are the two main factions’ understanding of this tactic and this desired end-state, and their total rejection of it — or soft toleration of it.
    Some of us are still in Business as Usual Mode and some of us are highly alarmed at how close the left is to achieving its end-state of a society divided between the Empowered True Believers and the Denigrated and Threatened Underclass, and are no longer willing to walk towards the gulags.
    As we consider civil equality and freedom-in-fact (not just theoretical freedom, but actual real freedom in the real world) to be principles that are more important than any other, we are willing to violate some of the less-important procedural principles to fight the left’s objective of complete subjugation of us.
    To many of us, it appears the Business As Usual crowd is focused on fairly trivial procedural matters while performing their appointed duties as the left’s enablers and enforcers of complete social and cultural rulership by the left.

    The Republican establishment is defined by its business-as-usual attitude in response not only to leftist political activism but to actual subversion of governmental and civic institutions.


    Posted in Leftism, Media, Politics, RKBA, Trump | 19 Comments »

    Artificial Intelligence and Human Behavior

    Posted by David Foster on February 28th, 2018 (All posts by )

    WSJ has an story on the use of artificial intelligence to predict potential suicides.  The article cites a study indicating that “the traditional approach of predicting suicide,” which includes doctors’ assessments, was only slightly better than random guessing.

    In contrast, when 16,000 patients in Tennessee were analyzed by an AI system, the system was able to predict with 80-90% accuracy whether someone would attempt suicide in the next two years, using indicators such as history of using antidepressants and injuries with firearms.  (It would have been nice to see numbers cited for false negatives vs false positives…also, I wonder how nearly the same results could have been achieved by use of traditional statistical methods, without appeal to AI technology.)

    Another approach, which has been tested in Cincinnati schools and clinics, uses an app which records sessions between therapists and patients, and then analyzes linguistic and vocal factors to predict suicide risk.

    Both Apple (Siri) and Facebook have been working to identify potential suicides.  The latter company says that in a single month in fall 2017, its AI system alerted first responders in 100 cases of potential self-harm.  (It doesn’t sound like the system contacts the first responders directly; rather, it prioritizes suspected cases for the human moderators, who then perform a second-level review.)  In one case, a woman in northern Argentina posted “This can’t go on.  From here I say goodbye.”  Within 3 hours, a medical team notified by Facebook reached the woman, and, according to the WSJ article, “saved her life.”

    It seems very likely to me that, in the current climate, attempts will be made to extend this approach into  the prediction of self-harm into the prediction of harm to others, in particular, mass killings in schools.  I’m not sure how successful this will be…the sample size of mass killings is, fortunately. pretty small…but if it is successful, then what might the consequences be, and what principles of privacy, personal autonomy, and institutional responsibility should guide the deployment (if any) of such systems?

    For example, what if an extension of the linguistic and vocal factors analysis mentioned above allowed discussions between students and school guidance counselors to be analyzed to predict the likelihood of major in-school violence?  What should the school, what should law enforcement be allowed to do with this data?

    Does the answer depend on the accuracy of the prediction?  What if people identified by the system will in 80% of cases commit an act of substantial violence (as defined by some criterion),  but at the same time there are 10% false positives (people the system says are likely perpetrators, but who are actually not)?  What if the numbers are 90% accuracy and only 3% false positives?



    Posted in Current Events, Human Behavior, Tech | 13 Comments »

    Square your shoulders, stand up straight: Only Take What You Deserve

    Posted by Ginny on February 25th, 2018 (All posts by )

    An interesting history.


    Posted in Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Miscellaneous, Society | 17 Comments »

    Just sayin’

    Posted by Margaret on February 24th, 2018 (All posts by )

    In all the righteous indignation about the story that there were four cops who failed to enter the school after the shooting, I’ve yet to see a source cited other than CNN.

    We on the right have spent a lot of time and energy yelling that CNN is untrustworthy.

    Why, then, do we uncritically accept this story from CNN?


    Posted in Politics | 19 Comments »

    Boycott the NRA Boycotters

    Posted by Jonathan on February 23rd, 2018 (All posts by )

    Start with the Enterprise and Alamo and National car rental companies. Add other companies to the list as they join the PC #BoycottNRA bandwagon.

    Do these people remember the Smith & Wesson boycott? Perhaps not. And the anti-RKBA boycotters in this case aren’t gun companies and therefore don’t stand to lose as much from a conservative/pro-RKBA boycott as S&W did. The management of National et al no doubt figure their political opportunism won’t cost them much. They may be mistaken. Late-night TV hosts can get away with antagonizing half of their potential audience if doing so gets them increased viewership from the other half. However, sellers of ordinary goods and services are unwise to expect any such political partisanship to be good for their businesses.


    Posted in Current Events, Politics, RKBA | 36 Comments »

    We are in uncharted territory.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on February 20th, 2018 (All posts by )

    On October 18, 2016 Barack Obama ridiculed anyone who could think the election could be rigged.

    OBAMA: I have never seen in my lifetime or in modern political history any presidential candidate trying to discredit the elections and the election process before votes have even taken place. It’s unprecedented. It happens to be based on no facts. … [T]here is no serious person out there who would suggest somehow that you could even rig America’s elections, in part, because they are so decentralized and the numbers of votes involved. There is no evidence that that has happened in the past or that there are instances in which that will happen this time. And so I’d invite Mr. Trump to stop whinin’ and go try to make his case to get votes.

    Then Hillary lost.

    In December 2016, Democrats were still trying to figure out what happened.

    This process, which is a form of what’s called confirmation bias, can help explain why Trump supporters remain supportive no matter what evidence one puts to them—and why Trump’s opponents are unlikely to be convinced of his worth even if he ends up doing something actually positive. The two groups simply process information differently. “The confirmation bias is not specific to Donald Trump. It’s something we are all susceptible to,” the Columbia University psychologist Daniel Ames, one of several scholars to nominate this paper, said. “But Trump appears to be an especially public and risky illustration of it in many domains.” (Ames and his colleague Alice Lee recently showed a similar effect with beliefs about torture.)

    One of those was a good observation. But what about the “Russia Collusion” story?

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in Current Events, Elections, Russia | 23 Comments »

    What Won’t Happen

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on February 20th, 2018 (All posts by )

    And why – in the wake of the latest horrific school massacre. What I mean is the banning of gun ownership in the US, or the abrogation of the Second Amendment, or the passing of so-called “sensible” new gun restrictions (which will be as little-enforced as the last set of so-called “sensible” restrictions). Not going to happen, no matter how emotional the demands by the ban-gun advocates scream, weep, stomp their feet and accuse gun-owners and organizations like the NRA of having blood on their hands. And no, we don’t much care how they do it in Europe, or Britain, or Australia. Weirdly enough, in the United States, the most violent cities are the ones with the most restrictions on personal firearms. Violent crime is generally the preserve of a distinctly urban racial sub-culture, which if omitted from the statistics, presents a very different picture when it comes to violent criminal activity in the US as a whole. That’s an anomaly and discussion for another time, although it does have slight bit of bearing on this one. Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, RKBA | 63 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Article Begins

    Posted by Jonathan on February 19th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Since 2008, I have argued in multiple publications that the Foreign Emoluments Clause’s Office-language (and closely similar language in other constitutional provisions) reaches only appointed federal officers, and not any elected federal officials, including the presidency. My position has not gone entirely unnoticed; indeed, it has even occasioned some firm and thoughtful opposition. My goal in this Article is not to illustrate the full spectrum of views opposing my position on the subject. There are far too many such views—many of which contradict one another—many of which (do not appear to) have gone through any sort of independent review process, by student editors, by peer review, or otherwise. Instead, my more modest goal here is to illustrate how deeply idiosyncratic some of these views are—not merely in their conclusions, but more importantly in their broad methodological approach.

    Read the entire post.


    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Article Begins

    A French Village: Complete Series Now Available

    Posted by David Foster on February 18th, 2018 (All posts by )

    I’ve previously mentioned this series, set in the (fictional) French town of Villeneuve during the years of the German occupation and afterwards.  It is simply outstanding – one of the best television series I have ever seen.  The program ran from 2009-207 on French TV, and all the seasons are now available in the US, with subtitles. Having now watched the whole thing, my very positive opinion of the series is sustained.

    Daniel Larcher is a physician who also serves as deputy mayor, a largely honorary position. When the regular mayor disappears after the German invasion, Daniel finds himself mayor for real. His wife Hortense, a selfish and emotionally-shallow woman, is the opposite of helpful to Daniel in his efforts to protect the people of Villaneuve from the worst effects of the occupation while still carrying on his medical practice. Daniel’s immediate superior in his role as mayor is Deputy Prefect Servier, a bureaucrat mainly concerned about his career and about ensuring that everything is done according to proper legal form.

    The program is ‘about’ the intersection of ultimate things…the darkest evil, the most stellar heroism….with the ‘dailyness’ of ordinary life, and about the human dilemmas that exist at this intersection. Should Daniel have taken the job of mayor in the first place?…When is it allowable to collaborate with evil, to at least some degree, in the hope of minimizing the damage? Which people will go along, which will resist, which will take advantage? When is violent resistance…for example, the killing by the emerging Resistance of a more or less random German officer…justified, when it will lead to violent retaliation such as the taking and execution of hostages?

    Arthur Koestler has written about ‘the tragic and the trivial planes’ of life. As explained by his friend, the writer and fighter pilot Richard Hillary:

    “K has a theory for this. He believes there are two planes of existence which he calls vie tragique and vie triviale. Usually we move on the trivial plane, but occasionally in moments of elation or danger, we find ourselves transferred to the plane of the vie tragique, with its non-commonsense, cosmic perspective. When we are on the trivial plane, the realities of the other appear as nonsense–as overstrung nerves and so on. When we live on the tragic plane, the realities of the other are shallow, frivolous, frivolous, trifling. But in exceptional circumstances, for instance if someone has to live through a long stretch of time in physical danger, one is placed, as it were, on the intersection line of the two planes; a curious situation which is a kind of tightrope-walking on one’s nerves…I think he is right.”

    In this series, the Tragic and the Trivial planes co-exist…day-to-day life intermingles with world-historical events. And the smallness of the stage…the confinement of the action to a single small village….works well dramatically, for the same reason that (as I have argued previously) stories set on shipboard can be very effective.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in France, Germany, History, Human Behavior, War and Peace | 10 Comments »

    New! – Your 2018 Poorer-But-Wiser Haiku Blowout

    Posted by Jonathan on February 16th, 2018 (All posts by )

    Minor hurricanes:
    Always worse than expected
    With much long-term harm.


    She cares not a whit
    About your gearhead hobbies,
    But your words – watch out.


    Earnings out today.
    They killed volatility.
    Those calls you bought? Ha.


    Your lawn guy vanished.
    Perhaps he was deported?
    That’s the way to bet.
    Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in Poetry | 3 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Paper Ends: The Way Forward

    Posted by Jonathan on February 16th, 2018 (All posts by )

    First, the commentators above (along with other commentators) believe their position carries a strong presumption of correctness (if not certitude), that it is my duty to displace that presumption, and that they will be the judges if I have carried that burden. Certainly, I have never agreed to such terms for this debate. Nor should I. The text of the Constitution does not expressly state that the Foreign Emoluments Clause applies to the President. The text of the Constitution does not expressly define the scope of the Constitution’s “Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States]” language. The Supreme Court has had no occasion to address the scope of the clause or the meaning of the clause’s operative language (or even the scope of similar language in other clauses.). As educated generalists who have chosen to recently inject themselves into this debate, their opinions should get a hearing. I would add: so should mine. And since, what is involved here is a debate between opinions lacking firm judicial support, our divergent ideas (and we) meet as equals. I add that the Legal Historians are supporting the plaintiffs in active litigation. Generally, in civil litigation, the burden of proof, production, and persuasion falls on the plaintiff, not on the defendant.
    Second, it is time for my intellectual opponents to be fair. Claims that they have made that they know or now know to be incorrect should be withdrawn or revised. Claims that they have made asserting the existence of documentary support, should be supported, and promptly, with actual documents—or else the claims should be withdrawn. If they have to go through this process repeatedly, they might ask themselves if their position (and expertise) is really as strong as they have led themselves and others to believe.
    Third, it is time for my intellectual opponents to be forthcoming in regard to an improved debate and debate atmosphere—an atmosphere rooted in mutual respect and goodwill…

    Read the whole thing.

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    Posted in History, Law, Politics, Trump | Comments Off on Seth Barrett Tillman: How My Next Academic Paper Ends: The Way Forward

    Attack of the Job-Killing Robots, Part 3

    Posted by David Foster on February 13th, 2018 (All posts by )

    The final months of World War II included the first-ever battle of robots:  on one side, the German V-1 missile and on the other, an Allied antiaircraft system that automatically tracked the enemy missiles, performed the necessary fire-control computations, and directed the guns accordingly. This and other wartime projects greatly contributed to the understanding of the feedback concept and the development of automatic control technology.  Also developed during the war were the first general-purpose programmable digital computers: the Navy/Harvard/IBM Mark I and the Army/MIT ENIAC…machines that, although incredibly limited by our presented-day, standards were at the time viewed with awe and often referred to as ‘thinking machines.’

    These wartime innovations in feedback control and digital computation would soon have enormous impact on the civilian world.

    This is one in a continuing series of posts in which I attempt to provide some historical context for today’s discussions of automation and its impact on jobs and society…a context of which people writing about this topic often seem to have little understanding.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, History, Tech | 10 Comments »

    A 60 Year Old Fighter Design – Still Operational

    Posted by David Foster on February 10th, 2018 (All posts by )

    In 2009, Neptunus Lex paid tribute to the MIG-21, which he referred to as “a noble adversary.”  At the time, it appeared that the airplane was about to be phased out of service by those countries still operating it.  Didn’t happen that way. though…the airplane is still in use by several countries, most notably India, which still operates more than 200 of them.

    Design studies for the MIG-21  began in 1953, with first flight in 1958 and production shipments beginning in 1959.  As analogy for the design’s longevity, imagine the Red Baron’s Fokker triplane from 1918 still being employed in a military role in the post-Vietnam era of 1977!

    An article asks: is the MIG-21 is the fighter jet that could fly for 100 years?  Probably not, I imagine, at least in any kind of operational role…but it’s already done pretty well in longevity terms for a combat airplane.

    There are some web pages on the MIG-21 by a former East German fighter pilot.

    Also, there’s a pretty decent movie, based on real events, about the 1966 Israeli operation to steal a MIG-21 from Iraq.  The moviemakers were evidently unable to get their hands on a real MIG-21 (in 1988), so a MIG-15 was used for the flying scenes instead.

    More MIG-21 information here.


    Posted in Aviation, India, Russia, Tech, War and Peace | 15 Comments »